Feel Good Food with Executive Chef David Werly

Executive Chef David Werly is no stranger to the American palate. He may have been raised in Alsace and schooled in Strasbourg, France, but he worked his way through several Michelin-starred restaurants in Europe before heading to the States to earn himself a Michelin star in Las Vegas.

At the Mandarin Oriental, Executive Chef David Werly oversees the daily operations of all the culinary offerings in the hotel. Bringing a truly international perspective to his role, Werly elevates all of the menus to new heights— beginning at the pool, where most guests might not expect such a caliber of options. But then, that’s why a chef such as David Werly is at the helm.

His French accent is natural, like the golden flaxseeds he mixes into the vegetable tempura, an assortment of asparagus, carrots, cauliflower, zucchini, and sweet potato served with a French curry and Vadouvan aioli. Werly takes genuine pride in pointing out every detail of the dishes he creates and the sources of their ingredients. “We want to be able to work with certain types of product; but above all else, the ingredients must be fresh. There’s a big difference between getting parbaked bread and making bread from scratch, and you know where the flour and other ingredients comes from. With the volume in Las Vegas, it’s tempting to take shortcuts. But not here at the Mandarin Oriental.”

It’s not only about sourcing, it’s about sourcing sustainably—not an easy feat when you’re in the middle of a desert. “We still have a carbon trace attached to everything we ship in. We try to protect certain types of fish; we aren’t using Chilean sea bass because of the way it is fished, and no more wild caviar but rather farmed caviar, which has really come into its own.” His cheesemonger is in Northern California, and his charcuterie comes from the East Coast. “I get my mushrooms from New York because I believe that is where quality is prime, and we don’t want to restrain ourselves.” He also sources hearts of palm from Hawaii. “If I call on a Friday, my farmer there will cut me two to three cases worth on Monday and ship them right out. I get these huge hearts of palm from her, which I slice very thin, marinade them a little bit, sweet and sour, and serve as a carpaccio with a little salad. It’s unbelievable taste and quality.”

As with anything that is well thought out, there’s a story behind each menu item. But the bigger theme is rooted in familiarity. “Here, guests will enjoy some American favorites as well as foods that will reinvigorate you after a long evening.” That means a liberal dose of healthy—a generous sprinkling of superfoods dot the menu pages. Some items come with added supplements; some are simply amazingly refreshing on their own. “Take our banana smoothie: we add lemon, vanilla, Medjool dates, and cashew nuts that have been marinated in water overnight so that they are easier to digest. It’s an amazing start to the morning. Throw in some maca powder and you add a kick-start to your day with a natural energy boost and good digestive properties as well.”

Werly also strives to keep it seasonal, which is challenging in a place that offers only two seasons. “As the weather warms up, the produce gives us a chance to change up our menus.” Winter mushrooms and game give way to peas, ramps, morels, and white asparagus. “You can have a Mediterranean experience in terms of the produce you can find right now. Take the heirloom tomato gazpacho with a basil sorbet: basil is in its prime right now. With a toast point on the side, with blue cheese and honey on top, this falls nicely right in between comfort food and a light vegetarian dish.”

Citing demand from his guests for tasty food and drinks that make you feel good, Werly is happy to comply. “It’s not about losing weight, it’s about staying healthy and feeling great after you eat. It’s important to me to provide that kind of experience for our guests. Taking dietary restrictions into consideration is not a trend, it’s a necessity.”

The Vegetable Tempura with flaxseeds is a good example of striking a balance. “Here I put the seeds, which are very high in omega-3 content, with vegetables that have been fried. I like to think it brings back everything into balance.” With some dishes 100 percent serious, others are definitely more playful. “We try and put something beneficial into all of our dishes, even when you want to purely indulge yourself. My feeling is, any time you can crush seeds, marinade ingredients, dehydrate fruit, and add it to food in an effort to add or replace protein intake for the day, it’s a good idea.” A good idea that also tastes amazing: the burrata with prosciutto di Parma features dried organic cantaloupe. “The depth the cantaloupe brings to this somewhat classic dish is astonishing. If you are on a diet or trying not to eat as heavy, dried fruits are the best way to go.”

CHEF WERLY’S TIPS FOR NUTRITIOUS SMOOTHIES

  • Leave out the diary. It’s heavy and not easy to digest.
  • Freeze fresh fruit before adding. That way when you add the ice, it emulsifies easily.
  • Soak nuts in water overnight before adding. It makes them easier to digest.
  • Add super foods for a healthy boost.

SUPERFOOD SUPPLEMENTS

ORGANIC MACA POWDER
A root from Peru, maca is a tuber and belongs to the radish family. Long valued for its benefits as a supplement and food ingredient, it is most commonly consumed as a powder. A nutritionally dense superfood, it has a light, nutty flavor and is perfect in smoothies, salads, drinks and juices, and cooked foods. Rich in B vitamins, it is an energy booster, while its calcium and magnesium levels help with remineralization and relieve stress. Maca also contains high amounts of enzymes and all of the essential amino acids.

ORGANIC HEMP POWDER
Made from one of the richest plant sources of protein, omega fatty acids, and dietary fiber, hemp seeds are high in protein (50 percent) and antioxidants and include all the essential amino acids. As well as an energy booster, it is easy to digest. It has a nutty flavor and is great in smoothies and baked goods.

MORINGA
Hailed as a “miracle tree,” moringa grows in subtropical areas like Africa and Asia. Its leaves are rich in calcium, potassium, minerals, protein, and vitamins A, B, and C, naturally boosting your energy levels and providing a remarkable source of nutrition. It has been known to restore skin problems, promote good sleep, lower blood pressure, and reduce arthritis pain. Add leaves to salads, rice, or pasta, or add leaf powder to beverages and soups, sprinkle on food, or drink as a tea.

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